Third Quarter 2021 Average Air Fare Increases from Second Quarter, Still Down from Pre-Pandemic 2019
The average U.S. domestic air fare increased in the third quarter of 2021 to $314, up 3.2% from the inflation-adjusted fare of $305 in the second quarter and up 4.7% from the unadjusted second-quarter fare of $300. Adjusted for inflation (constant 2021 dollars), the average 3Q 2021 air fare was up 22.0% from $258 in the same quarter of 2020 and down 14.7% from pre-pandemic Q3 2019 ($368).
Air fares increased as passenger demand increased, with U.S. airlines reporting 73.9 million originating passengers in the third quarter of 2021, up 174% from 26.9 million passengers in the third quarter of 2020.
Itinerary Fares: Round-trips but including one-way tickets when no return is purchased.
Breakout of trip types: one-way, 40% ($229); round-trip, 60% ($386).
Fare calculations by BTS
*Based on a random sample of approximately 10% of tickets sold.
Total ticket value: The price charged by airlines at time of ticket purchase.
Included: Additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at time of ticket purchase.
Not included: Fees for optional services, such as baggage fees.
Inflation-Adjusted Average Air Fares
Third Quarter 2021 fare ($314):
Compared to all third quarters: Down 40.9% from the highest 3Q fare, $532 in 2000.
Compared to all quarters: Down 43.0% from the highest fare for any quarter, $551 in 1Q 1999.
Start of BTS records: Down 41.6% from 1Q 1995 ($538).
Recent high: Down 24.1% from 1Q 2016 ($414).
Recent low: Up 22.0% from 3Q 2020 ($258).
All-time low: Up 22.0% from the previous low 3Q 2020 ($258).
All-time third-quarter low: Up 22.0% from the previous low 3Q 2020 ($258).
Other Revenue: In recent years, airlines have increasingly obtained additional revenue from passenger fees, as well as from other sources. U.S. passenger airlines collected 65.1% of their total operating revenue of $57.8 billion from passenger fares during the first nine months of 2021, down from 88.5% in 1990.
Unadjusted Average Air Fares
Third Quarter 2021 fare ($314)
Trend: Up 4.7% from 2Q 2021 ($300)
Compared to all third quarters: Down 21.3% from the highest 3Q fare, $399 in 2014
Compared to all quarters: Down 21.9% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
Start of BTS records: Up 5.9% from 1Q 1995 ($297) (compared to 79.0% consumer price increase since the same quarter)
Recent low: Up 28.4% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
Recent high: Down 12.5% from 1Q 2016 ($359)
All-time low: Up 28.4% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
All-time third-quarter low: Up 28.4% from 3Q 2020 ($245).
Fares by Airport
Fares by airport group:
Highest: 5 airports with 95,210-99,999 originating passengers ($323)
Lowest: 12 airports with 1.0-1.49 million originating passengers ($302)
Standard error: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10% sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. Averages for airports with smaller samples may be less reliable. For Q3 2021 results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.23 and the median fare is $257.14. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $313.93 to $314.82. For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is .38 and the median fare is $333.00. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $385.61 to $386.76. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is .32 and the median fare is $186.74. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $228.76 to $229.82.